Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court, London SW1
Opened 27 February, 2002

*** A remarkable experiment, but not exactly a laugh a minute

You really need to know how director Katie Mitchell has gone about staging Norwegian Jon Fosse's play to get the most out of it.

Mitchell has adopted a Dogme-like set of rules for this show and the late-night piece accompanying it, Face To The Wall: lighting and sound mixed live on the night, no props unless absolutely essential, rehearsals continuing right through the run so that every performance will be a little further on from the last. It's an exciting approach, the more so as Fosse's play (translated by Gregory Motton, who isn't exactly Mr Chuckles himself) is like the grimmest bits of Strindberg, Beckett and Pinter rolled into one.

An agoraphobic young man, a failed writer, is driving his wife to distraction: even his parents can't bear to spend more than a few minutes on a visit, and in the end she decides to take their baby and leave him. The same exchanges are played out over and over again with no real progress. In the end, well, something happens, but offstage. It's not by any means a bad play, and Sophie Okonedo gives an enthralling performance as the Young Woman, but by God, it's 80 minutes of hard going. The interest is all in the process that keeps these deadening events alive as theatre.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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